September 24, 2010

It is not easy to be me

Fate had me to be born in America to parents born and brought up in India. What does that mean to a little girl like me, well a lot!
Life is not as simple for me as it is for my American friends born to American parents. They have fun and follow traditions during the holidays here. We celebrate some of the American holidays too, but I find my parents lost thinking what to really do. And it is not only these that we are celebrating. We have the Indian festivals too that my parents are so excited about. And both put together there are so many that I sometimes find it hard to remember what comes when. And when I excitedly go tell my friends about Diwali or Navaratri they look so lost.
When I went to India it was a lot of fun, but it was a lot hard too. Initially everybody was shocked at how little I spoke in any other language than English, but towards the end of my three months vacation they wondered why I did not have an American accent like their relative's kids. My parents insisted I speak in our language there as much as possible, but the kids in the playground replied back in English. I was made to recite Slokas while my friends there were free to sing any English song they wanted. It was all very confusing to me.
And then there are these friendly comments from everybody. My diet gets filled with sweets and butter when family in India think I am not chubby enough. Then I am soon spooning a lot of fruits and vegetables after a friendly American asks my parents if they have checked my BMI lately. There is so much obesity in America you see!
And then there are expectations set by others like me, I have to have the right amount of geekiness in me from my Indian genes and the right amount of groomed skills and social etiquette from my American environment. What will our friends think if I dont read at four and add complex numbers being of Indian origin? What will my uncle's neighbor's cousin think if I am not going to ballet classes?
So with all these expectations set, its not a surprise when I get looks when I say something that is not expected. Like when I listen to the song My name is Madhavi from Karadi Tales, I sing my name is A, I am from America and I speak English, I look up to see my parents exchanging a look. Or when I hear a song of Raffi, All I really that I can grow up strong and take the place where I belong, I say I belong in India, that is where my family is and I am going to move there, and I again see my parents exchange a look. I get laughed at when I call Salami as Ras-malai as for some reason I think they sound similar.
It is true that everything to me comes in two folds, the pains and gains. At just the sheer beginning of my life I am experiencing lifestyles from two different corners of the world. From the folktales of India to the humor of Dr. Seuss, from the pumpkin pies of Halloween to Pongal, from the lehengas to the leggings, from M S Subbulakshmi to Raffi, from Ballet to Bhangra, there has been plenty of variety. And with all this variety I have had a terrific start to my quest of knowledge and information.
After thrusting all these complications into my life they even have a name for me, ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). Sometimes I think it stands for American Born Controlled Desi.
All I know is that I just want to grow up like me, without the controversies and the expectations. And other times I wonder if that is what will form me. But whatever it is I wish I grow up to be an American Born Confident Desi.

---Perceived thoughts of a little girl at the door of four.


Shruthi said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

All the more beautiful is your empathy.

And Amen for American Born Confident Desi.

Madhu said...

Thank you Shruthi. Hoping the empathy will make it a little easier for her.